The Everyman Theatre is bringing an updated version of the classic Henrik Ibsen play Hedda Gabler to Baltimore next week. Written in 1890, Ibsen questioned the role of women in Victorian society through his protagonist Hedda, an affluent woman trapped in a marriage to a struggling scholar.
The adaptation, written by acclaimed up-and-comer Jon Robin Baitz, stays true to Ibsen's work but cuts down on much of the original text and replaces it with a more modern vocabulary.
"This is a new approach for Hedda -- it's sexy and dangerous and fun," said Deborah Hazlett, a member of the resident acting company at Everyman who plays Hedda.
"People will recognize [Ibsen's] language and will hear his language," she said, "but it feels a little sexier to me, a little more accessible, [and] people forget that Ibsen can be funny."
Hedda is a complex character, a woman who, like most, is full of inconsistencies; she's both strong and weak, rebellious and complacent, good and bad, all at the same time.
"One of the challenges that people have with Hedda Gabler is watching the contradictions in her behavior," said Hazlett. "But we are contradictory, all of us; that's part of being human.
"It's what goes on around us every day -- being afraid to say how you feel, to live the life you want to live. I don't think [the play is] antiquated; I think it's very contemporary in that people every day are living behind a facade, afraid to speak, afraid to act," she said.
"Some women in our country have the luxury of being able to live a life of their own choosing, and I think that we forget that there are many women who do not have that luxury. ... Given what's been going on in the world, it's been brought to our attention that there are all sorts of oppressive situations where women are not able to achieve that."
Some audiences have viewed Hedda's antics in the play as those of a desperate spoiled girl, soured by a world that has turned out to be less charmed than she'd hoped, while others have seen her as a victim of her times, unwilling to devote herself to the societal expectations of a housewife.
But, wherever you fall on the opinion scale of Hedda, Hazlett said, it's hard to be ambivalent toward her. "People I don't even know very well come up and tell me about Hedda. [They] have very strong opinions about her.
"This is a play that makes people talk."
Vincent M. Lancisi, founder of the Everyman Theatre, directs. A "pay-what-you-can" performance takes place Tuesday night, and previews are Wednesday and Sept. 4. Hedda Gabler officially opens Sept 5, and performances run through Oct. 5. Tickets are $15 to $30, and show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 8 p.m. Fridays. The Everyman Theatre is at 1727 N. Charles St. For more information, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or go to www.everymantheatre.org.
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